Category Archives: In the Trenches of Parentville

Floored

img_1999Against all logic and understanding, I tolerated the most hideous-looking carpet known to man for what seemed like an eternity. It stretched an expanse measuring more than 600 square feet from living room to dining room—a wall-to-wall nightmare that everyone knew was pink. Not salmon. Coupled with the abundance of brass and ugly-as-sin wallpaper we found throughout the house on move-in day 1997, it was as if the eighties had lifted the roof and vomited every bit of horrible décor that had ever been imagined.

And because the universe hates me, it took more than two decades to convince my husband that it was high time for a change. Never mind my incessant reminders that our kids and pets (and Lord knows how many previous owners’ kids and pets) had stained said carpet and that it would never again return to its pristine state.

Who am I kidding? Even its pristine state looked positively awful. Need I remind you it was pink? At any rate, for 21 years my husband wouldn’t budge on the issue. In his mind, it was impossible for a house to have too much carpeting—even terrible carpeting. He was even known to have loved the carpet that used to exist in our kitchen and master bathroom. Yes, KITCHEN and MASTER BATHROOM. I wish I were kidding. Not surprisingly, with regard to accidents, it brought new meaning to the word repulsive. Need I even mention the stench that lingered, even after dousing it with an arsenal of cleaning solutions?

“For the love of God,” I thought, “who puts carpeting in a kitchen or a bathroom?! It’s wrong on so many levels I can’t even begin to understand what went into such flawed design decisions.” Thankfully, I only had to endure that tragic reality for about 16 years, having replaced it with some beautiful pseudo-tile flooring. It’s a joy to walk on with bare feet and as an added bonus, I no longer freak out when I spill orange juice or drop an egg at my feet. Okay, maybe I freak out a little, but it’s a far cry from what used to happen.

As for our new living room/dining room reality, it is defined by warmth and wonderfulness in the form of seven-inch, oak-like planks that resist both stains and water. And to say that the dark walnut color is gorgeous is an understatement. It perfectly ties our kitchen cabinetry and stone island together with the Brookline Beige paint in our living/dining rooms and I’ve watched enough HGTV to say that it adds to the overall flow of the household. Yes, I used the word “flow” when I attempted to persuade my husband that we needed hardwood flooring, because I’m fancy like that.

Needless to say, I eventually succeeded in convincing him to ditch the aforementioned carpeting (at least on the first floor), but I’m sure it pains him greatly to admit that he actually likes the new hardwood floors. Of course, he refuses to use the word “flow,” but that’s okay.

“So what do you think about the new flooring?” I asked after the job was complete.

“It’s not so bad and I like how the color ties into the wood furniture. Even the area rugs are nice,” he conceded one day not so long ago.

I knew he’d see it my way. He just needed a chance to appreciate my vision. Alright, it’s possible I had no vision. Perhaps I just loathed that carpet with every ounce of my being and sought to replace it with just about anything that was remotely viable.

Even cobblestone had potential in my mind. At least it wouldn’t have been pink.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, enjoying my new hardwood flooring thanks to Ed Gair, the master craftsman who tolerated my neurotic little dog as well as an embarrassment of clutter. Visit me at www.Facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom for before, during and after pictures.

Copyright 2019 Melinda L. Wentzel

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An Island of Misery

IMG_3914My kitchen island is a glorious beast—a massive, 34 square foot, 1,200-pound slab of quartz-y wonderfulness that seats six comfortably and houses a wealth of wares within its spacious cabinetry and drawers. It is all I dreamt of and more as our kitchen was renovated for months on end—the mother of all home improvement projects. But because the gods apparently hate me, its surface has been defiled in the years that have passed since its conception. I’m fairly certain that the man who built it (Tim Rosati) and the man who installed it (Ed Gair) would weep if they knew the awful truth—that it has become a home for wayward schlock that my family refuses to take care of and it’s entirely possible that I will die of disappointment.

On my headstone it will read: HERE LIES A WOMAN WHO APPRECIATED THE INHERENT BEAUTY OF A KITCHEN ISLAND WHOSE SURFACE SPARKLES IN THE SUN—A SPACE COMPLETELY DEVOID OF THE TRAPPINGS OF LIFE—A TESTAMENT TO ALL THAT IS UNSULLIED AND GOOD. LET IT BE KNOWN THAT SHE DIED TRYING TO RESTORE SAID ISLAND TO ITS ORIGINAL GLORY, A NOBLE AND WORTHY CAUSE INDEED.

At any rate, I have wasted precious time imploring my family to stop using my beautiful island as a dumping ground and I’ve made myself crazy attempting to return their stuff to its rightful place in the universe—like the cussed garage, or a dresser drawer, or a closet for Pete’s sake. Almost instantaneously, the wretched piles return, only larger and more offensive to my sensibilities. To illustrate, this is a partial listing of the items I found there today:

Party favors, props and programs from various musicals, phone chargers, checkbooks, out-of-date ticket stubs, gift cards, a dog leash and treats, someone’s watch (that may or may not keep accurate time), a hodgepodge of jewelry, a handful of cough drops, a half-eaten Rice Krispie treat, thank you notes (yet to be written), six jumbo paper clips, someone’s library card, a prescription drug box, PILES UPON PILES of mail in a sorry state of disarray, newspapers, the trappings of school, an honor roll clipping, tiny wads of unclaimed money, sweaters and sweatshirts, a discarded purse, marching band paraphernalia, field trip permission slips, as many as five coats hanging on the backs of chairs and eight pairs of shoes lying in a huddled mass at the foot of said chairs, a winter scarf, Bubble wrap and Judy Bernly’s bobby pins.

By all accounts, what I’ve described is tragic and I can’t begin to express how disheartened it makes me. It isn’t as if we haven’t had discussions as a family about the problem. Loud discussions, as I recall. Each time I argue my case, the logic I offer fails to inspire the parties in question to take lasting action. More specifically, to not only remove stuff from the island, but to KEEP IT FROM FINDING ITS WAY BACK. It’s almost as if my husband and kids are marking territory. Like dogs. Although I suspect that dogs know better.

To make matters worse, it appears as though the scourge is spreading—much like the plague. That said, the disordered mass has moved beyond the boundaries of the aforementioned island and currently affects a sizeable portion of a countertop and much of our dining room table. Sadly, the former has become a staging area for jewelry repair, featuring an embarrassment of ridiculously small tools, and the latter now functions as a place to pile things that have no business being piled there. Naturally, my husband argues they are things he is “working on.” If the past is any indication, he’ll be “working on” that stuff till doomsday. Maybe longer.

In order to deal with such a demoralizing set of circumstances, I suppose I’ll just have to ignore the surface and know that deep within beats the heart of my beloved island. Or I could ask for the unthinkable—that it be cleaned for Mother’s Day.

A girl can dream, can’t she?

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, probably standing in my kitchen, lamenting the sorry state of my island. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2018 Melinda L. Wentzel

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“M” is for Motherhood

While it’s true the term “motherhood” is a simple collection of ten letters, specifically arranged for ease of pronunciation, it is suggestive of so much more. In sum, I regard it as a wholly intangible, behemoth-like affair that effectively upended all that I thought I knew about life as a decidedly callow twenty-something. Needless to say, the experience continues to shape and mold me, schooling me day and night in the curious ways and means of children, wowing me with the inherent remarkableness of the aforementioned creatures and rendering me forever changed as an individual. As it should be, I suppose. That said, here’s how I spell motherhood.

M  Motherhood is a messy beast-of-a-thing—with its suffocating mass of sippy cups and sidewalk chalk, lemonade and lunch boxes, bicycles and building blocks. Never mind the ubiquitous nature of stuffed animals and the profusion of refrigerator-worthy masterpieces that inhabit our homes, marking time as our progenies progress along the winding path of childhood. And let us not forget all the lovely shades of gray with which we must contend: the tangled complexities of teens, the relentless questioning of toddlers and the soft underbelly of the headstrong child—the one we try desperately to govern without stifling. Indeed, motherhood is a messy business.

O  Motherhood is overwhelming to be sure—a seemingly insufferable, plate’s-too-full collection of moments that, when taken together or viewed within the prism of the unattainable ideal, beat us into submission, the thrum of parental failure ringing in our ears. That said, there’s nothing quite like comparing oneself to the façade of perfection—holding our harried selves up against those who appear to be getting it right, the moms who keep all the plates spinning as if flawless extensions of themselves.

T  Motherhood is timeless—an eternal post to which we are assigned, willing or not. From the moment our writhing infants, ruddy-faced and wrinkled, are placed upon our chests, motherhood begins in earnest. And although our parent/child relationships shift and season over time, they remain inextricably woven within the fabric of our lives. Not even death can end the appointed role, as a mother’s counsel is sought long after she has been eulogized.

H  Motherhood is a humbling experience. Ask anyone who has ever faced the stinging truth as it relates to intolerance and hypocrisy—delivered by a six-year-old, no less, soundly putting those who ought to know better in their respective places. So often kids eclipse our academic abilities, too, reminding us how important it is to embrace change. Never mind that every fiber of our being screams in protest. Moreover, becoming a parent means a humbling loss of identity to some extent, punctuating the uncertain nature of our so-called significance in certain circles. We are simply so-and-so’s mom now—maker of sandwiches, applier of sunscreen, gracious recipient of dandelions. But somehow the title feels right, as does finding a pretty vase for the dandelions.

E  Motherhood is edifying in that literally every day we learn something new—most of which is harvested from conversations at the dinner table or at bedtime, from diaries that beckon unremittingly or from tiny notes we discover wadded up in someone’s pants pocket. We spend a lot of time watching, too, realizing that our mothers were right all along. Children will, indeed, cut their own hair, shove peas up their noses and breach late night curfews to test both boundaries and our resolve. Arguably, the lessons of motherhood never truly end.

R Motherhood is real. Good, bad or indifferent, it is palpable, inimitable and exceedingly enlivening. It is the stuff from which memories are made and so much purpose is derived. For me, anyway.

H  Motherhood delivers nothing less than a heady rush—an intoxicating dose of awe wrapped in the sheer rapture of having had a hand in creating life, not to mention having been called upon to shape one or more future citizens of this world. Mothers are, without question, difference-makers.

O  Motherhood makes us swell with omnipotence now and again—a grand and glorious surge of I’M THE MOM, THAT’S WHY sort of sway that leaves us feeling all-powerful, if only fleetingly. But nothing makes us puff up more than hearing censure as priceless as, “Dad, did you get Mom’s permission to do that? She makes the rules, you know.”

O  With motherhood comes obsession. And spiraling panic. And unfounded fear. And, of course, debilitating worry over that which will probably never occur anyway. In sum, we fret about bumps and bruises, unexplained rashes and fevers that strike in the dead of night…about report cards and recklessness, friends we cannot hope to choose and fast cars that will whisper to our charges, inevitably luring them within, despite our best efforts to forbid such foolishness.

D  Motherhood is delicious—a profoundly gratifying slice of life we would do well to savor. Never mind its patented swirl of disorder and wealth of doubts, fears and impossible demands. Indeed, motherhood threatens to swallow us whole, while at the same time allowing us to drink in its goodness, gulp by gulp.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (reflecting on the many facets of motherhood).

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Dumpster Diving

549771_447951745281244_195262543_nMy husband has never heard of Marie Kondo. Nor does he subscribe to her renowned KonMari Method of keeping only the possessions in one’s life that “spark joy.” It’s a wonder I convinced him to park a ginormous dumpster in our driveway for the better part of a month, hoping against hope that we’d somehow find the will to purge our home of the crap we’ve accumulated as a family for over 22 years.

I, for one, found it to be a cathartic experience—especially the part where I got to fling stuff into the air with wild abandon. It’s possible I may have even shouted something in triumph each time I tossed one of my husband’s college textbooks or a tangled mass of badminton netting into the giant metal bin. The only thing more liberating would have been to light it on fire.

But there were times I got a bit misty-eyed when faced with the matter of keeping or chucking an embarrassment of cap guns. They were a hallmark of my childhood after all. Never mind that several were jammed or in another way deemed nonfunctional. Not surprisingly, I had great difficulty parting with my kids’ toy machine guns, too, and felt compelled to squeeze the broken triggers multiple times before hurling them into oblivion.

I’m like a kindergartener, only less disciplined.

Needless to say, my excitement grew as the days passed and the dumpster became filled with more and more junk. There was a glut of the ugly-as-sin carpeting we just tore out of the living room. There were also boxes upon boxes of heavy books and lesson plans, circa 1974, that I hauled down from the attic, risking life and limb on a 17-foot ladder. There was an abundance of college notebooks that were spared from the trash for nearly five decades. For the love of God, who does that? A hoarder, that’s who. There was a gas grill, an office chair, three sets of antiquated golf clubs and a bug collecting kit of undetermined origin. Of course, there were still bugs inside it—dead as ever. Even my dust-covered treadmill found its way there, despite the challenge of dragging it all the way through the house and garage. At least we got some exercise in the process.

Even our neighbors got in on the fun when I gave them the go-ahead to deposit their gargantuan television set inside. I only wish I had witnessed its arrival. Instead I had to hear about several family members pushing and/or “riding” their 72” TV down the street and up our driveway. I can only imagine what it must have been like to then lift the stupid thing into the dumpster. Hopefully, no one got a hernia.

As one might expect, my hoard-happy husband and I had several heated debates while we attempted to clean out our garage—most of which involved dumpster diving (his) and emphatic arguments (mine) over the issue of whether or not something “brought joy” to one’s life.

“What do you mean ‘Does this bring me joy?’” he demanded to know as he held a bucket with no bottom in his hands. “I happen to like this bucket.”

“It has no bottom,” I reminded him.

“I don’t care,” he defended.

In hindsight, maybe I should have requested that a marriage counselor be included with the dumpster rental. Judging by our impassioned exchanges, I’m guessing a lot of couples would be interested in such a convenient arrangement. Better still, a copy of Marie Kondo’s Spark Joy could be presented to help the utterly hopeless.

Although we still have a lot of stuff to purge after filling an entire dumpster to the brim and it took two people with master’s degrees to open it, on the bright side, we found a buyer for my husband’s vintage (old-as-dirt) Schwinn bicycle and classic toy trucks. What’s more, we unearthed some marbles while sorting through a hodgepodge of items.

It’s good to know we still have some.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, anxiously awaiting the arrival of another dumpster for Round II of The Purge. Visit me there at www.Facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2019 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Call Me Crazy: Crazy for my iPhone

www.melindawentzel.comAs love affairs with cell phones go, the one I am about to describe is epic. Not that I’m the only person ever to become enamored with his or her smartphone—because I’m not. Plenty of idiots like me cling to their dear Droids and BlackBerries, inextricably fused to the deliciousness of those handheld wonders and to the epitome of shameless egocentrism. It’s just that I have trouble wrapping my head around the hideous nature of my fixation.

And by hideous, I mean that it is both appalling and unhealthy, never mind indefensible. Indeed, those with whom I reside will readily attest: “Mom, it’s like you have a crush on your phone or something. I seriously think you need an intervention—or possibly a better hobby.”

Case in point: In the dark of predawn, I abandon the warmth of my bed and stumble across the room, drawn to the soft glow of my beloved phone—a moth to flame. As if nothing else mattered, I scan breaking news from a never-ending stream of sources, devour the latest nuggets of idiocy on Twitter, check my email and, of course, peruse the Facebook statuses of 300 of my closest friends. Admittedly, I’ve got a problem.

Oddly enough, just a few short months ago I mocked those who appeared to be tethered to their precious devices—i.e. the people who routinely careen into oak trees and ill-fated produce towers while attempting to walk and text at the same time. The cool and detached who no longer engage in meaningful, face-to-face conversations, preferring instead the wit and wisdom of Siri, who understands them more completely anyway. Dweebs who have the audacity to sit across from one another in a café (or the same cussed living room), maniacally tapping screens and peering into their palms as if they each held a tiny, companionable wizard—which is disturbingly close to reality, now that I think about it.

Ironically, I’ve become one of those people—ever-so-smitten with my iPhone, unable to resist its wily charms and perfectly debilitated by its consuming allure. Never before did I imagine a fascination or dependency so profound. With each passing day, it lures me deeper and deeper into the tangled wood of its enchanted forest. Good thing I’m equipped with a state-of-the-art GPS and a user-friendly navigation app I downloaded for free.

At any rate, I cannot deny my crippling obsession with the aforementioned gadgetry, nor can I refute the fact that I feel naked without it. Especially in the shower. Despite my best efforts to prevent it from seeping into every corner of my life, it has become my muse, my constant companion, the yang to my yin.

My husband, by contrast, tends to regard it as a) a disease, b) the pure embodiment of Lucifer, and c) a tech-inspired monstrosity he would gleefully launch into the stratosphere if he had his druthers.

Clearly, the man doesn’t understand the bond my phone and I share or how said device “completes me” (and my sentences if need be). Nor could he possibly grasp the deep and abiding love I have for iTunes…and iCalendar…and word games, or how patently delirious I was when I first discovered Instagram or that I could look up inane facts involving the lifespan of headless cockroaches WHILE listening to Zeppelin AND using the built-in alarm to remind me to haul my brood to the soccer field. Likewise, he couldn’t begin to recognize the delectable nature of speech bubbles or why I smile each time my kids iMessage me. Moreover, I think FaceTime frightens him.

Indeed, it’s a complicated sort of relationship—one that my dear husband will probably never fully appreciate. He doesn’t care that I spent an inordinate chunk of time learning how to properly waggle my phone, that I googled an embarrassment of app-related tutorials in order to become minimally functional or that I endured countless sessions with my tech-savvy charges who found me “impossible to work with.”

In the end, I suppose it doesn’t matter. I’m still crazy for my iPhone.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live, wooed beyond comprehension.

Copyright 2013 Melinda L. Wentzel

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